Criticism is a word that comes with a lot of stigmas. There are so many different types of criticism: positive, constructive, damaging, projected, to name a few. However, working in the church, especially as a leader, we open ourselves up to criticism by congregation members, fellow staff members, pastors, the list could go on how we accept criticism matters. Here are 4 practical steps on accepting criticism gracefully:
Listening can be hard when someone is criticizing us or our work. Often our first reaction is to be defensive. But learn to listen instead of reacting right away. Give yourself and your brain a few seconds to process what is happening. If you don’t have any other reaction than defense, try not to react at all.
Ask Questions and Respond
Hopefully, the person critiquing you is doing so out of a desire to see you grow. So take this opportunity to ask questions. It may feel awkward or unnatural to ask questions after being criticized. However, by asking questions, you recognize this moment as one where you can improve. So take advantage of this opportunity, and use it as a stepping stone toward becoming the best version of yourself.
If you don’t have any questions, take a few moments to gather yourself and allow your brain to continue processing the situation and respond. If you disagree with their criticism and know you’re not defensive, respectfully respond and have an honest conversation.
Take Note and Follow-Up
After the initial interaction, when the criticism was received, take note of what was said. Sometimes we tend to block out interactions or have a hard time remembering exactly what was said during criticism. Taking notes will allow you to go back, remember, and fully process what was said. Rather it was a criticism of a design you made or an interaction you had. Having the notes can serve as a starting point to improve.
After you’ve been over your notes and self-reflected, ask for a follow-up meeting. I know. I know. You’re probably thinking that sounds crazy and the least fun thing ever. However, asking for a follow-up meeting isn’t asking to keep talking about the same uncomfortable issue. It’s asking, “What improvements are you seeing?” It is taking full advantage of the opportunity you’ve been given, and that is the opportunity to have someone care enough to want to see you grow.
Say Thank You
It is extremely humbling to receive criticism, let alone go back and ask the person if they see improvement. But it’s important to let them know you appreciate their time. You appreciate them investing in you. You appreciate that they care. Saying “thank you” lets them know you heard them, you’ve taken them seriously, and you want to grow.
All in all, accepting criticism gracefully can be hard to hear but is essential for us to grow as people and as leaders. Still not sure how you feel about criticism? Maybe you’re a woman and have a hard time hearing criticism from male leaders? Or maybe you want to learn more about criticism and the Bible. We have a whole session devoted to “Learning to Love Criticism” during our 2021 She Leads Church Virtual Summit. You can find out more information here, or you can click here to sign up for FREE!